Personal stories are a powerful tool for enacting change. Impacted families and loved ones can add a human dimension to research and statistics. HEARTS Network survivor advocates are encouraged to share their personal stories. Through sharing, we remember those who have been impacted and we connect with others who are on a similar journey.
Below are some of the personal stories HEARTS Network families and victims have shared. Each is unique but carries the same message: teen driving can deeply impact anyone and change is possible.
Andrea had been driving independently for nearly three months when she crashed while trying to turn left in a busy intersection near her home. Despite serious injuries, she has made a full recovery and wants to raise awareness about teen driving issues.
Anthony was a passenger in his friend's vehicle. The 17-year-old driver was driving recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic and speeding, and lost control of the vehicle. The car slammed into a tree. The driver sustained minor injuries, but Anthony died minutes after the crash.
Caleb was driving to meet a friend and shop for Christmas presents when he received and read a text message. While he was returning it, Caleb swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with a vehicle. He died at the scene.
Cindy and Chelsea were leaving a parking lot and pulling onto an eight lane state road when a 19 year old struck their minivan. The impact pushed the minivan into oncoming traffic where another vehicle struck it. All three vehicles burst into flames. Chelsea and Cindy were killed.
Joe left his parent’s house and was driving down a rural road when he lost control of his vehicle. Joe survived the crash but was in and out of the hospital for months. He now travels with his mother, Nancy, to various schools, driver’s education classes and national summits to speak about the dangers of teen driving.
Johnny was returning home from seeing a friend on Christmas Day, 2004. As he was driving through the Onondaga Indian Reservation, Johnny lost control of his car and crashed into a utility pole. He died at the scene.
Katie was riding with a friend to a party and the girls put their cell phone on speaker to listen to directions. Distracted by the cell phone call, the driver missed her exit and lost control of the vehicle. It flipped four times before coming to a rest. Katie sustained severe injuries and now is quadriplegic.
Kelsey was driving and talking with a friend on her cell phone when she decided to pass the vehicle in front of her. She misjudged the amount of time she had to safely pass and tried to get back into her lane. While doing so, Kelsey overcorrected, lost control and was T-boned by another vehicle. Kelsey died just months before she was scheduled to graduate alongside her twin sister.
Kyleigh was riding with two friends in a vehicle driven by a 17 year old. The driver lost control and crashed, and the impact killed both the driver and Kyleigh. In the years since Kyleigh's death, her mother has worked on various pieces of legislation to strengthen teen driving restrictions in New Jersey.
In April 2007, Lacey and several friends left their senior prom headed to a post-prom celebration in the Poconos. They never made it. Their vehicle crashed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, killing Lacey.
On St. Patrick’s Day, 2011, Owen was leaving a band concert. While crossing the street with his family, a distracted teen driver struck and killed him. Owen was heading to McDonald’s to buy a Shamrock Shake with a dollar bill his grandfather had given him for good behavior during the concert.
On Nov. 14, 2007, Tim was driving home from work. He sped over railroad tracks near his home and lost control of the vehicle, crashing into a utility pole. Tim battled for his life for four months before passing away in February, 2008.
Tyler was driving through a darkened construction zone that was poorly marked and lacked traffic controls. He was driving around a curve when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into construction debris. Tyler passed away.
Veronica was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a teen at night down a rural road on Aug. 13, 1997. The driver was speeding and lost control of the vehicle. Veronica was ejected and died at the scene. She was not wearing a seat belt.